After a multiyear legal battle to gain control of the Atlanta Hawks, the Atlanta Thrashers and Philips Arena, the Atlanta Spirit is pulling an abrupt about-face and is looking to liquidate all its holdings, with John Moores negotiating to buy the NBA franchise.
We’ve already covered discussions between the Spirit and True North Sports & Entertainment to sell the NHL’s Thrashers for a move to Winnipeg. What’s new is the Spirit is also negotiating to sell the NBA’s Hawks and the operating rights to Philips Arena to Moores, the former owner of the San Diego Padres. The two sides are in an exclusive negotiating period, though the Atlanta Journal-Constitution is reporting they are not close to a final deal.
Why a sale? Simply put, the Spirit ownership got in over their heads in running two teams and an arena. They’re described by arena insiders as being huge basketball fans with little interest in running the other businesses. But in the arena business, a team like the Hawks is just a portion of the overall revenue structure; it takes a commitment to the concert and touring-show business to make it.
Moores would not move the team, nor could he: the Philips Arena lease is solid and runs through 2028. The Hawks are bound to the terms of the lease; the Thrashers are not.
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